Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Having Wonderful Crime (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

John J. Malone, an attorney-detective created by crime writer Craig Rice, was featured in two different comic mystery movies. Those films, HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME (1945) and MRS. O'MALLEY AND MR. MALONE (1950), were just released by the Warner Archive in a John J. Malone Mystery Double Feature set.

HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME is a zippy little 70-minute farce in which Malone teams with his newlywed friends Helene and Jake Justus (Carole Landis and George Murphy) to solve the disappearance of a magician and the subsequent discovery of a murder.

The film is fairly goofy and there are so many characters that it takes some doing to follow the plot closely, but it's fun watching the actors having a good time in a lighthearted film.

Landis is an over-the-top zany-but-beautiful goofball, and while I've always found Murphy pleasant but charisma-challenged, here he's just right as someone who's enough of a dim bulb to take his bride seriously. O'Brien is their long-suffering straight man.

I found having a trio of crime-solving lead characters, rather than a solo detective or a husband-wife team, to be an interesting dynamic which made the film a bit different from the norm. The film will probably be better enjoyed if approached without especially high expectations, but it did leave me wishing it had turned into an ongoing series.

Rice also wrote the novel which inspired HOME SWEET HOMICIDE (1946), reviewed here a few weeks ago. While many of her books teamed Malone with Helene and Jake, the latter two characters do not appear in MRS. O'MALLEY and MR. MALONE, which I've reviewed here. It should also be noted that while this is called a "John J. Malone" DVD set, O'Brien's character is actually called Michael J. Malone, not John, in this movie!

HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME was a reunion for O'Brien, Landis, and director Eddie Sutherland, who had teamed the previous year to make the most enjoyable WWII domestic spy thriller SECRET COMMAND (1944). The trio were good friends, and when Landis died in 1948, O'Brien and Sutherland were both pallbearers at her funeral.

HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME was filmed in black and white by Frank Redman. Landis's stylish wardrobe, which is a good reason in and of itself to check out the movie, was created by Edward Stevenson.

The supporting cast includes Richard Martin ("Chito" from the postwar Tim Holt Westerns) plus Lenore Aubert, George Zucco, Charles D. Brown, Gloria Holden (billed as Anje Berens), and Chili Williams. I thought Willams' boyfriend might be played by Charles Drake, but he's not listed in the cast; there's a Chris Drake listed, but he doesn't seem to be a relative of Charles.

As a postscript, Gene Raymond and Lee Tracy each had a go at playing John J. Malone on TV in the early '50s.

The Warner Archive "double feature DVD" has both films on one single-sided disc, plus a trailer for the other film in the set, MRS. O'MALLEY AND MR. MALONE. The DVD print of HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME looks terrific.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Mark McGlone said...

The funny thing about this movie is that it's based on an excellent and very popular mystery novel by Craig Rice, yet the movie dispenses with book's plot entirely. I wonder what people who'd read the book thought when they went to see the movie.

8:38 PM  
Blogger berigan said...

Just to chime in, while I didn't read the book this film is based on, I have read several Craig Rice books, and they are wonderful mysteries. And so different in that there are 3 main characters, and the unmarried, sloppy Lawyer is the real brains of the trio!
I do like this film too, and wish there had been a series of films based on the characters.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both for sharing your insights about the Craig Rice books!

A series sure would have been fun.

Best wishes,

11:41 PM  

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